When An 8 Year Old Piano Prodigy Stunned The Ellen Show With A Sensational Performance

ByQuyen Anne

Jan 14, 2024

Child prodigies are children under the age of ten who possess the abilities of an adult competent at a particular skill set. The classical pianist Umi Garrett certainly qualified. Nonetheless, as is well documented, being a child prodigy is a double-edged sword. For a start, the pressure of young fame can be destructive for so many reasons.

For a classical pianist, there is the further problem that a minor injury to a finger or arm can end a career. So before we present the delightful May 2009 Ellen Show performance that brought 8-year-old Umi to public attention, let me ease your mind. By all accounts, at age 22, Umi Garrett is a well-adjusted young woman with a flourishing career.

What a poised 8-year-old! Commenting on the video, Hninn Aye Thin makes two important points, “I was blown away by her personality. The best thing about this girl is she was not forced to play the piano”. Then there are Umi’s tricks – her ability to play the piano behind her back and from under the keys. In an adult, such tricks can be dismissed as gimmicks, but in a child, it is an astonishing achievement. It shows the extent to which Umi had internalised both the instrument and the music.

You can say it’s only a fragment of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, a mere nursery rhyme. It is said that Mozart wrote the music, but this is disputed. What is sure is that Mozart wrote a series of variations on the piece, probably in the early 1780s. Of course, the tricks are but an ice-breaker for Umi’s fluent take on Liszt’s difficult Concert Études, Gnomenreigen (Dance of the Gnomes). On the Liszt, she shows the potential which can be seen on her October 2019 reading of Chopin’s Scherzo No. 4.

Umi Garret is a multi-award-winning classical pianist. In 2008, before she appeared on The Ellen Show, Umi had won first prize at both the Southwestern Youth Music Festival and the J.S. Bach Competition, with both competitions in LA. By 2012, she’d won first prize in competitions in NYC, Budapest, Hungary and Osaka, Japan, as well as the Grand Prix in the Chopin International Competition in Hartford C.A. More recently, Umi Garrett’s awards include National Chopin Competition, 2020 (4th place) and Juilliard School’s concerto competition (2020,1st prize for her G Major Concerto by Ravel). She was also a finalist in the 2020 Young Concert Artists Competition and the 2021 Canada International Piano Competition.

Due to her family heritage, Umi Garratt is fluent in both English and Japanese. Notably, in 2013 the 13-year-old Umi embarked on a concert tour of northern areas of Japan that had been devastated by the 2011 tsunami and earthquake. The Kizuna Concert Tour, which involved performances for affected children at four elementary schools in the area, was repeated in 2015. This speaks to her character and reinforces the positive impression she gave on The Ellen Show.

Umi Garrett’s released her first record when she was 9, her second when she was 12, and her 3rd at 18 years old. Her collaboration with cellist Emily Mantone – the complete Sonatas for Piano and Cello by Ludwig van Beethoven – is due for release imminently.

Umi Garrett graduated from the prestigious Juilliard Music School at the end of the 2022 academic year.

Watching the charming video of the 8-year-old Umi Garrett play her trick versions of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star fragments, I find myself wondering what would happen if she switched to rock music – her showmanship would give Jimi Hendrix and Jerry Lee Lewis a run for their money! Rock’s loss is classical music’s gain. As a classical pianist, Umi Garrett is no longer a child prodigy. She is a rising star.

If you would like to see more from Umi Garrett, you can subscribe to their YouTube channel or follow them on Facebook.

The Ellen DeGeneres Show is home to moving talent, young and old alike.

Ellen loves to host a wide variety of guests, including ordinary people with extraordinary talent.

When nine-year-old Umi Garrett was invited onto the show in 2011 for her virtuosic talent on the piano, she was no exception! This video begins when Garrett excitedly enters the talk show stage, eagerly waving and walking up to Ellen to give her a warm hug.


Her big eyes peer out from her tiny frame, complemented by a sweet smile as she candidly discusses her passion for playing the piano.

Umi admits that she started playing piano at four and a half years old, entering into an after-school program her preschool teacher had.


Eager to play and practice, Garrett also admits that her parents had to make “piano rules” for her.

Because she is ready to play as soon as she wakes up, her parents had to set a comfortable schedule so as not to annoy the neighbors! She admits to Ellen she’d play piano day and night if she could, revealing her paramount passion for music.

Not only does Garrett perform flawlessly for a nine-year-old, she’s so comfortable with the piano she’s able to play tricks on it!

She leads Ellen over to the piano to show her an amazing feat of talent.


Garrett approaches the piano and pushes in the bench.

With an innocent smile, she skillfully begins to play a very classical rendition of “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star” on the piano—backwards and without looking!

The audience applauds her with delight. She goes on to present them with another trick. This time it’s the same song, but upside down!


While she dazzles the audience with some light-hearted yet skillful tricks, she makes the real impression when she sits down to play.

Garrett goes on to play “Gnomenreigen (Dance of the Gnomes)” by Franz Liszt. The piece is highly technical and quick, but her fingers dance effortlessly across the keys to deliver it. You can see the concentration in her face as she executes the piece flawlessly, an inspiring accomplishment for such a young player. As she finishes, the crowd melts into a symphony of claps and cheers.


Garrett has remained a devout student of the piano.

She has received critical and global acclaim for her poise and flawless playing. She recorded and released her first album at the age of nine, entitled Just For You. At only age 13, Garrett was given the title of the Young Steinway Artist, a very prestigious award reserved only for the best.

She has toured and performed countless times, relaying the greatest classical compositions with technique and grace.


The Winnipeg Free Press spoke of her proudly as well:

“In addition to displaying bravura technique, the young soloist also possesses an extraordinary musicality.”


Now in high school, she continues to work closely with teachers helping to refine her craft.

Huffington Post has called her a “budding musical genius,” and her amazing accolades continue to support and build her.

A wide variety of her performances can be found on her YouTube channel, UMIPIANO. She can be found across all social media platforms, as well as on her personal website. Her website has a list of event dates and CDs for purchase, including her most recent release from 2019.


Young Garrett’s memorable piano performance on Ellen has earned over five million views and 41,000 likes.

She continues to fiercely pursue her passion. Congratulations on your astonishing success, Umi!

Check out her moving talent in the video below!

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